Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Nice Rack

We as both cyclists and mass consumers with unlimited discretionary funds sometime forget the true scale of our addictions. I was reminded while packing up our four nicest bicycles, one road and one mountain bike each, for vacation last week and putting them on the trailer hitch mounted rack on the van.

A quick check of the simple math values of those four bicycles yielded a sum that was greater than the purchase price new of said van not so many years ago. This is a rather nice van than seats seven passengers comfortably, has power doors, locks and seat, A/C and cruise control and gets 26mpg when driven sensibly on the highway.

Our best road and MTBs precariously dangling out back.
 Lets just say that with this revelation, the drive north on the interstate in stop and go traffic was a bit unnerving.

Monday, May 28, 2012


Yesterday was day 151 in a row on the bike, not that I'm keeping track or anything. That really isn't that big a deal of course as it's not like I'm hammering each and every day. Not really sure where the mini-adventure in itself is going to end up or how far I will get. We'll just have to see I guess. I'm to the point where it doesn't really matter and I could stop at any point, really, I could :)

The day was a very good day on the bike, with stellar weather and excellent conditions. It was a much better day I must say, than day 150 the previous day. We opted for a local ride vs. a big notch ride as I've been pretty beat lately. A couple of big rides this week on top of some increased intensity the past few weeks has let me in a rut and pretty flat. Time to take it a little easier and recover is really what is needed so a big huge ride didn't seem the hot setup. That ride was a road ride that was to incorporate pieces of routes that we had done in the past along with some new sections that we had not only never ridden before but had never been on before. They were located in very rural Maine, the town of Byron, quite literally in the middle of nowhere in one of thew great many blocks of the state that have very few roads at all. In the past we'd ridden snowmobiles through the area but didn't know it terribly well, so this would be an adventure.

The ride out was uneventful, starting out cool, overcast and comfortable. Within an hour the sun broke and it started to really warm up. We got in some new climbing up to Black Mountain in Rumford, which does a neat bypass of much of the less scenic part of town and also has one good steep wall to get up and over. We then started north on the long steady climb up RT17 toward Rangeley. Unfortunately, that is when the head/cross wind started. As Roxbury Gap came into view, the slightly shorter route which we decided against in favor of this route, the neat new high power windmill farm came into view. The though occurred to me that intentionally riding bikes in placed sought out to erect wind farms probably isn't the best choice. It proved to be a good assertion as we fought the wind for the next 20 miles on a steady uphill grade, most of which was in the direct sun.

To make a long story shorter, thew road we were supposed to turn onto, Easter Hill Rd., never appeared. We rode almost to the height of the land overlooking the lakes region but turned around slightly before, at mile 50 of what now would have to be an out and back. On the way down we stopped at the one obvious side road that looked like it might be the right turn. It was clearly signed something other that Easter Hill Rd. and it was seasonal use only. A short bit of consideration as to the consequences of a dead end or getting lost when at present we were at mile 55 and still had 40 miles to go, and we decided to commit to the dreaded out and back. And with that we tucked our tails and slunk home in defeat, shame and misery.

In contrast, yesterday we chose to ride offroad and traveled over to the Kingdom Trails for some fun and low key riding.We invited my nephew Tyler to join us, who is a very active and athletic young man but hasn't ever really done much of any cycling or specifically mountain biking. Earlier this year I gave him a bike that I'd cobbled together from parts that I had in my bin coupled with some parts and an excellent vintage annodized purple and made in the USA GT Zaskar frame that my buddy Rich gave me last year. Not a modern bike but riddled with good quality parts and a solid ride for someone who has never owned a real bicycle. Between that and the other gear I had lying around I was able to fully outfit him for real.

Cathy and I arrived first and snagged passes and hit the lower part of the east side of Darling Hill. We typically don't spend a ton of time on those trails but hit a bunch of them. I've got to say that we have been missing out. Good flowy singletrack was in abundance. Cathy was riding incredibly well thanks I'm sure in part to the new bike karma.

Last Thursday we picked up the bike of all bikes for her, a Cannondale Scalpel 29er 1, from my buddy Chris at the Bikeway Source in Bedford. He really helped us out big time and pulled a ton of strings to get it for us. Apparently these rigs are nearly impossible to get and they are pretty much sold out for the year. This model was a long awaited and anticipated new design, announced last summer but late in delivery. Anyhow, I see a trip to Kane's in my near future for some well deserved payback. Thank you so much for your help and support. We really need to get to work on putting that team together. Maybe I can get off my lazy butt and try and get it squared away for the upcoming cyclocross season.

I spent the AM Thursday over at the shop putting the new rig together for a shakedown ride Cathy was doing in the PR that evening. After the bike was completely done with SPD pedals and setuf tubeless with Stan's sealant it weighed a scant 23.55 lbs for a size large. They don't get much lighter than that. The only change after the shakedown was to cut the massive 700mm wide bars down to 640mm, making the handling much more comfortable.

Anyhow, we had an excellent ride going with some intermittent cell phone/text message tag trying to coordinate Tyler's arrival. I didn't hear the arrival message so it took us a little while to get back out to meet him but after a pedal swap we hit the road. The road being Kirby Road, a mountainside road that has a brutal paved climbed followed by a steady gravel climb ultimately leading to the Kirby Connector trail. This will then traverse back to the mountain and bring you out on trails to the base lodge. I like it as a starter ride.

The only problem is that they logged part of it last year and made a mess. Otherwise good stuff. Ty was quickly suffering but held strong. He did great and quickly got into it. We made our way over to and down Burnham Down, where they've added massive amounts of board walk. The trails were great and we rode across the road and back to the van for a few modifications.

You see, Tyler brought his backpack, which was full of stuff he didn't need, like shoes and a water jug and tools that don't really work and pedals. We ditched that as we had tools, got him a water bottle to put on his bike, adjusted the cleats on his shoes so he could clip in easier and then snagged some lunch. Top off the drinks and we were back on the trail on the west side of Darling Hill. Super fun stuff. Cathy was flying and Tyler was doing great as well. The KTA folks have been super busy and the trails were great with some neat new additions like Eager Beaver. Very fun alternate to the sand pits. Troll Stroll was in awesome shape as well.

By that point at least one person was getting tired which meant he was getting sloppy. A couple spills told us it was time to head back. Cathy and I made one run for Sidewinder while Tyler waited at the top. I made my way down most of the way and stopped to snag a picture of Cathy. Unfortunately she was nowhere to be seen. I waited an eternity and started calling back the trail. At first, nothing. I grabbed the bike and started running up the slope through the woods. Finally I heard a call back and soon after saw her. She had crashed but was all right.

I guess Tyler wasn't the only one tired. We made our way out and back to the van, packed up and headed out. I stopped at my folks to pick up our old canoe which they had borrowed and my brother Chad showed up to get Tyler. My other brother Jeremy was there as well so we visited for a bit and then made out way for Bethel, back home to some hungry kittens. Top it with an excellent chat with some really, really nice folks that we met at the pizza shop in town and it really was a most excellent day, indeed.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Birthday Fun

As mentioned earlier, last Friday was Cathy's birthday. With all that she has had going on lately, we decided to just go low key and spend the day on our own. This started with a wonderful breakfast on a sunny and mild morning out on the deck with our new bistro set.

Next up on the schedule for the day was a nice easy mountain bike ride. We (I) decided to go and ride some stuff that we used to ride all the time back in the day (code for a wicked long time ago) but have not ridden in years. That would be the Middlesex Fells. The Fells was where I actually got hooked on mountain biking, shortly after I moved to MA back in the very early 90's. Later in the decade the Fells was where I first introduced Cathy to mountain biking and was in fact, the site of the very first social activity that we took part in separately, together; an group XC ski outing.

Lots of good memories of riding and maintaining the Fells through trail maintenance days. There was a point where I was super involved in the maintenance activity there for the local advocacy group. Alas, the controversy and user conflict coupled with moving further away sealed the fate on the relationship and I almost never return.

With that, I figured it would be good to head over for a change of scenery. And so we ventured from the house into the PR for a quick loop and then through various Lexington conservation lands to make the trip there. It is about 10 miles if you take a direct route which isn't too bad. On the way we took in the Whipple Hill conservation land and the rocky climb to the summit. Because the trees were full the views were muted. From there we pressed directly through Winchester and entered the Fells at the mid point of the western border. Our time in the Fells was not super long or involved. We poked around the west side and did a loop, taking in the tower at opposing ends and basically just enjoying the day, the nice weather and the time together.

From the Fells a little late lunch seemed a good idea and so we headed toward Somerville and the only place I know of that has secure valet parking for your bicycle, Redbones BBQ. It had been some time since we'd been in to Redbones; years in fact. We used to ride tandems with the Rob and Darcy, owners but hadn't caught up with them in quite some time. The trip over was fine save my taking a wrong turn and us having to backtrack. An order of fritters to start followed by a sliced brisket sandwich for me and fried catfish sandwich for Cathy along with a side of hand cut fries and a fresh PBR draft was perfect. One more PBR and we headed north on the bikeway for home. Did I mention that it is all (very slightly) uphill back home?

Amazing how a .25% grade and mild headwind can seem so very brutal with a belly full of beer and BBQ. Regardless, we made it the final dozen or so miles home, a little sleepy maybe and with acute cases of monkey butt going down. Damn you fashion sense but baggy shorts really are the devil.

The evening was finished off with the traditional birthday cake from Concord Teacakes in West Concord and black raspberry ice cream from Bedford Farms.

Great stuff and a very, very good day indeed. Thank you so much Cathy for allowing me to share your birthday with you.

Friday, May 11, 2012


Happy Birthday from the kittens and I to my wonderful wife Cathy. I hope that we can make today a wonderful day for you.

The sun is out and the birds are chirping. It's a beautiful late spring morning. What better way to start the celebration it than with breakfast on the deck.

Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Like it's Your Last

 As much as we all hate to see the sun disappear behind the clouds, it is necessary. This year, to date anyhow, has been incredibly dry. Too dry in fact. In pulling out years of overgrowth from the flower beds in front of our house this week, the ground was literally bone dry and dusty below the surface. Not a good sign at all and apparently, last week's rain didn't go as far as we had hoped.

I dug holes all around the yard to transplant a multitude of weeds, Lilly, Iris, Grape Hyacinth, Daffodil, Flowering Almond and Poppy. With each dig came the same discovery of exceptionally dry earth. Hopefully the plants will survive. Realistically, they are each invasive monsters that will not only thrive but take over where ever they take root.

Today is another gloomy, gray day. We have had rain off and on all day today, which is the second full day in a row of like conditions. This weather, overcast with intermittent drizzle yet mild and humid making the rain much more tolerable and welcome, sets a perfect mood for the day. Somber.

This, of course, is true only partially due to the weather. You see, today Cathy's grandma is being laid to rest and I am home with the kittens. Cathy flew west last night to attend the funeral. Although I didn't really have the privilege of spending much time with her, I could tell from our visits that she was a spirited and warm lady. She was always seemed to be smiling, at least whenever I can recall. That simple act speaks volumes about a person, and I would like to think that it was incredibly accurate. Based on the stories I've heard and the moving reflection Cathy wrote as well as the limited first hand experience, I think it reasonable.

Cathy has always had a close relationship with her grandma and spoke with her frequently on the phone. Over the past months she had taken to printing out cards with pictures of our gardens or the kittens or of bike racing and sent them so that her grandma would have something to open in the mail. The hope was simply to brighten her day, if only for a short while.

Cathy was able to travel west of Toronto last week, to the hospital that her grandma had been admitted to days earlier. She was able to visit with her on a good day and talk with her. It seems that we are rarely given, recognize or act upon an opportunity which may be the last. Ironic. I suspect despite our modern, everything-is-disposable world, that we tend to forgot that not everything can be replaced when it wears out. "There will always be another one to replace the current one" has become the modern mentality. Unfortunately that is not true in all cases and with the most precious of all things.

I can't express how happy I am that Cathy was both given that chance and that she took it despite the required hardship of making the journey. The truth is that enduring hardship only makes the experience that much more special, to everyone. I'm sure that Cathy's grandma recognized the effort that Cathy went through in order to make sure that she was able to spend some time with her and I'm sure that that recognition as well as the fact that she was able to see Cathy again, made her very, very happy.

She now has those wonderful memories, if only brief, to add to her collection. I missed out on that chance by one day with my grandmother and I can say for certain that I regret it deeply. At times, we forget how difficult it is for those we love and focus on how difficult it is for us to see them in dire straights. Cathy, however, did not make those mistakes and I am both happy for her and proud of her.

My heart goes out to Cathy and all of her family. Spring, as with all seasons really, is a transitional. This rain will spur new growth and new life and the inevitable emergence of summer. The gloom will eventually pass and will give way to the greatest treasure we may hold, memories. A moment is fleeting but the memories, they really are eternal.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Hard Life

Life really is tough, when you're a cat, at our house. I'm not sure how these two can keep this kind of pace up. Somehow they manage though.

They have recently discovered a passion for all things elastic. They are very fond of rubber bands but bicycle inner tubes are another favorite when they can get a hold of them. When done, they definitely do not hold air.

Opie doing what Opie does best. Well, maybe second best to award winning shedding.

Ellie posing pretty in mid stretch for the camera. Interrupting a busy day.